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From Dale to Dale

At the closing session of Online Information, a new conference chair for the 2010 conference was announced. Adrian Dale, the current chair, announced his successor, Stephen Dale. Although they share a surnane, they are not related. According to the official press release, Stephen Dale believes that “the social web is opening up a new era for massive collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation,” which I’m assuming will be major themes for the 2010 conference.

Stephen Dale's official photo, obviously not taken in London in December

Stephen Dale's official photo, obviously not taken in London in December

Asia Beckons Online

I’ve been noticing, over the past few years, a decline in delegates from Asian countries. Apparently Incisive Media, producer of the Online Information conference, has noticed the same thing. So they’ve decided to take the conference, or a version of it at least, to Asia. Online Information Asia-Pacific will be held in Hong Kong, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, on March 23-24, 2011. Since that’s over a year away, it gives people lots of time to think about exhibiting and presenting.

Conference Twittering

So far, there have been almost 2,300 tweets emanating from the conference. You can find the entire archive at Twapper Keeper. Most delegates’ tweets have been very positive, commenting on how many new things they have learned. The best part about conference coverage via Twitter is that the conversation continues after the conference ends. As people head back to work and reflect on what they hears and saw at the conference, they tweet and others respond. It certainly validates the theme of the program, which was Information plus Conversation results in Collaboration and Innovation.

The negative comments I heard from delegates were about money, as in they didn’t have much. Budgets are being cut, libraries are being closed, and staff are being laid off. The AIIP stand was very popular, as people look to self-employment as an antidote.

New Metrics

It’s unusual to listen to a vendor presentation and realize that the speaker isn’t promoting her product, isn’t giving a sales pitch, and is raising questions that we should all be thinking about. The New Metrics and Services for Delivering Value session was one of these. The final speaker was Mary Sauer-Games, VP, Higher Education Publishing for ProQuest, who said, “People don’t search anymore.” She also asked, somewhat rhetorically, how we can measure value. Next generation databases include increased use of PDFs and new types of content such as images, maps, audio, video and interactive). There’s more emphasis on browsing and more post-search manipulation. Students want to comment on what they’ve found in the databases and store citations in their personal workspace. ProQuest research into user behavior shows that there is more browsing and less searching.

The new value indicators all comes down to user satisfaction, concluded Sauer-Games, with the whole issue of metrics raising lots of questions that, so far, haven’t been answered.

Opening Up

Does our future lie in being open? Charlene Li, Thursday’s keynote speaker certainly thinks so. Her talk, on the impact of social media in your organization, started with the story of David Carroll, a Canadian musician whose guitar was broken by United Airlines baggage handlers. He wrote a song about the experience, made a music video, and put it up on YouTube. It quickly went viral, much to the dismay of United, one presumes. To Li, this illustrates the importance of social media and the clout of our culture of sharing. “We must have the confidence to let go, to give up the need to be in control,” she said.

She then listed the elements of openness as explaining, updating, conversing, open mic, and platform. The new decision making model is distributed rather than the old command and control model. Push out decision making to staff. Think open source in decision making.

How to get started in being an open leader? Start with defining your open strategy. You can’t just be a brand, Li told us, you must be in the conversation. Then you should understand the benefits of openness. Facebook fans, for example, only have value if they do something. Next build trust and manage risks, orchestrate openness, and find and nurture open leaders. Finally plan to fail well.

Li ended by saying that open leaders nurture curiosity and are humble. They should hold openness accountable and forgive failure.

No Fizzies

If by “fizzies”, you thought I meant drinks, then my headline is misleading. Indeed, several vendors had mini-drinks parties on their stands and those sometimes involved champagne. No, what I had in mind was German information companies whose names begin with FIZ. Neither FIZ Chemie Berlin nor FIZ Karlsruhe chose to come to the U.K. to exhibit this year. I confess I missed catching up with them, but it may be indicative of the state of the industry that the FIZzies didn’t find it cost-effective to make the journey.

Other German companies on the exhibit floor included Springer, which as you have probably seen from other blog posts introduced its SpringerMaterials at the show. For a short time, it appeared that we would also have news of Springer’s being acquired by Informa, but Informa has now dropped its efforts to buy Springer.

The other German company whose stand I visited was Weitkamper Technology, a  very interesting search engine technology, HitEngine. Its XSEARCH technologies include a clustering engine, facet navigation, search suggestions, and linguistic analysis.

Driving Towards Disambiguation

What does a racecar have to do with disambiguation? I have no idea, but I do regret being talked into climbing into the racecar simulator at the Thomson Reuters stand. Luckily, it was very early and no one except a few Thomson Reuters staff witnessed my abysmal driving on the race track. Yes, I drove off the track several times, went into a spin, and generally embarrassed myself. No, there is no photo to accompany this blog post. The “adventure” made me want to change my name so no one would associate me with such poor driving skills.

Wait, maybe that was the tie-in with disambiguation of author names. It’s a big problem, trying to determine if authors with similar names are, in fact, the same person, particularly when they have changed institutional affiliations. Thomson Reuters and Nature Publishing Group convened the first Name Identifier Summit last month with a follow-up meeting occurring during Online Information. Accurate identification of researchers and their work is particularly important as we move to e-science. Thus far, there are 21 organizations participating in this initiative, including learned societies, libraries, open access publishers, and for-profit companies.

This collaboration, it is hoped, will create an open, independent identification system for scholarly authors.

Vendor Map

I walked past the CMS Watch stand yesterday (it’s right in front of Theatre A) and noticed a large poster on the wall that was a “Vendor Map” of the content technology industry. It was fascinating to see a vendor map that resembled a London tube map. You too can see it at the stand, and pick up a smaller copy (A4-sized), or simply view it here.

Social or Semantic?

There has been much emphasis on the semantic web during the conference, with an entire track dedicated to the subject and the opening keynote by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor, Computer Science, and Nigel Shadbolt, Professor, Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Head, School of Electronics and Computer Science, both at the University ofo Southampton, specifically addressing The Semantic Web Revolution: Unleashing the World’s Most Valuable Information. Another track concentrated on the socialo web. There seem to be several ways of looking at the semantic web. Some use it as a synonym for Web 3.0, others used linked data and relationship terminology. Regardless of how it is described, it strikes me that the semantic web is data-driven while the social web is people-driven. I’m sure that’s an over-simplification.

But I do find it interesting that, as the speakers in both tracks extol the bright and shiny future of semantic and social web, many delegates are puzzled as to how this really affects their working lives. Two projects I saw demonstrated in the semantic web track, one from the UK government and one from HealthFinland, show the practical applications of the semantic web. Very impressive, particularly the Finnish project. As for the social web, I still hear delegates saying it’s too time consuming, it has little practical value in a professional sense, and that they just don’t see why they should use these tools.

The challenge we face, as information professionals, is to assess semantic and social web tools and technologies, sorting out what works for us and what doesn’t, but to do that assessment fully informed, which is why we go to conferences like Online Information.

Deep Web Contest

I ran into Abe Lederman in the Exhibit Hall yesterday. Although his company, Deep Web Technologies, is not exhibiting, he did ask me if I could help spread the word about a contest Deep Web is running. Here are the details, direct from Abe:

Deep Web Technologies, is sponsoring a contest. (http://federatedsearchblog.com/2009/10/21/broader-contest-bigger-prizes/) We’re in the federated search market, which is of interest to libraries, corporate researchers, and others interested in accessing the “Deep Web,” beyond what Google can find. Contest submissions are due by 12/15 and, even though we are giving $1,000 to the top winner, we have few submissions.

Best of luck, everybody!